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There is no need to rationalize the subsequent decision -- cancellation of e-visas. In fact this is to be expected. Pushing ahead with these visas and hosting Isa-Lu-Ra in Dharamshala is no more than an academic exercise after the long overdue demonstration of India's assertion that it is second to none when national interests are involved.
By no stretch of imagination, India can lend the dissident Chinese much help in breaking out of the tyranny under which they live but at least it can provide an opportunity for their voices to be heard. It need not be interpreted as interference in the affairs of a sovereign country, least of all by India, which has been tolerating regular dialogues between known Kashmiri separatists and Pakistan on its very soil.
Frankly, this is not how the critics of Modi government see the visa-no visa episode. Frequent volte face on issues relating to China--and Pakistan--make the country look weak, they aver.
This line got traction because two senior ministers, the external affairs minister and the defense minister, and the National Security Advisor had met their Chinese counterparts in recent days. All the three are said to advocate a tit-for-tat policy in dealing with unfriendly neighbors.
Were they chastened by some plain speaking by the Chinese leaders who want India to be a passive listener to their homilies? Was that the reason behind the change in the Indian stand on the visa issue? Answers to these questions were provided by the Chinese themselves, who are reconciling to India flexing muscles.
Welcoming India's roll back of Isa-Lu-Ra visas, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said: "We encourage all parties related to the listing matter of Masood Azhar to have direct communication and work out a solution through serious consultations. China is willing to continue with its communication with all the relevant parties."
It is essential to remember that the Dalai Lama is to be the star speaker at the Dharmashala conference. He has been a big thorn in the Chinese flesh. In fact for the Chinese, the Dalai Lama is a 'terrorist'; the world disagrees with China. The Chinese have no qualms in rejecting the terrorist label on Pakistanis like Masood Azhar and Hafeez Sayeed, who enjoy freedom to move around the Army dominated Pakistan. But in democratic India, the Dalai Lama has to put up with subtle and not so subtle restrictions on his movement.
The argument that India was obliged to arrest Isa on arrival, as demanded by the Chinese, begs a question: How did Isa, described as 'terrorist' by the Chinese, manage to visit countries like the US and Japan despite the so-called red corner Interpol notice against him?
Some sections of the Indian media assert that doing something like inviting Isa to a conference on China in India would encourage China to revive its interest in insurgency in India's North-east. Such argument ignores the reality that the Chinese had backed Indian insurgents even when there were no Isas around.
Anyhow the Chinese will use that option whenever they want, whether or not India allows any Chinese dissident to visit India. The only way to pacify the Chinese is to hand them over the Indian territories they claim as their own. As long as that is not done they will continue to create trouble for India--mostly by using their proxy, Pakistan, or even alone.
China's economy may have lost the momentum that propelled it to great heights, but it has not given up its arrogance and aggressive designs on almost all its neighbors on land and sea. The Chinese 'soft' power rests only on its coffers. That too may not be entirely right because China is not popular in many of the countries where it rushes with its deep pockets.
Some Sinologists base their contention that India should not do or say anything that displeases the Chinese on two factors. One, India as the weaker of the two parties should take all Chinese acts of provocation, including border incursions, on its chin and move on as though nothing has happened. Two, India holds no aces up its sleeves to trump any Chinese move against India.
It is hard to imagine that India holds no aces vis-a-vis China"or, for that matter, Pakistan. Certainly, no Indian will recommend a war with China or any other country. But there are diplomatic and non-aggressive ways of sending a strong message to intransigent nations: India does not have unlimited patience.
This is what La'ffaire Isa-Lu-Ra is all about. (Concluded)